Physical intervention training in Ireland

Tony Security Leave a Comment

I was prompted to write this article last week by a question on our recent webinar. The question was from an experienced security professional who asked my thoughts on the current plans to introduce physical intervention training for new entrants to rte security sector. At the end of a 2 hour webinar I didn’t really do the answer justice so I thought I’d write my thoughts down in a blog. 

What’s out there

Let’s start by looking at what’s currently out there. To be honest there isn’t a lot. There is nothing mandatory (unless your insurer gets involved) in Ireland. There are private offerings from providers (me included) to upskilling people with skills dependant on their role and then there are a number of companies who have in house trainers in some of the UK systems (although not often to a high standard) . There is also an offering through a major provider here but it isn’t properly risk assessed or designed as a quality assured course so I generally discount that as a viable option. 

What’s planned?

Currently the PSA are planning to introduce a new door security and guarding skills programme. It’s currently at a very early stage of design but as usual the length of time used up to get it to this stage means that by the time it’s introduced it will already be out of date and not fit for purpose. 
Included in the door supervisor programme is a single learning outcome related to the demonstration of physical skills.  It is a single learning outcome on a list of 29 learning outcomes. So it makes up approximately less than 5% of the overall learning required for the programme. So for a 10 credit programme which equates to 100 hours of required study (usually equates to 70 self directed hours and 30 with a tutor) then it means a total of 2.5 hours self study and 1 hour of directed learning with a tutor. There are loads of ways to explain how inadequate this for any entry level training but we will stick to the not fit for purpose’ statement for now so we dont offend any of the stakeholders.

On top of that the PSA issued the PSA59 guidance for the outline of the new programmes (upon which the QQI award should be based). They stipulate that for the door supervisor training programme there is 8 hours direct contact learning on physical intervention. Thus includes elements such as explaining the law on reasonable force and alternatives to use of force. (to do both of these properly is 3-4 hours at least), then disengagement techniques and then some intervetion and transport techniques. As somebody who has been studying and teaching physical skills in a security capacity for almost 20 years it is my  opinion that both of these documents are deeply flawed and not fit for purpose and to roll out training of these sort will make people less safe. The wording of the QQI award in fact doesn’t state anything about the learner having to be able to demonstrate any skills to achieve the award. It says ” Demonstrate a range of best practice methods in relation to physical intervention taking into account typical scenarios for door security personnel”. So it talks about methods not techniques. The wording of some of the PSA59 guidance is even worse . For example ” Demonstrate the use of a one-person restrictive standing hold to be used in an escort.”  Obviously written by somebody who doesn’t understand the difference in risks and methodology between a hold and an escort and certainly doesn’t see why we shouldn’t be teaching people, to engage in single person escorts as the start point of any set of techniques. It follows that up with ” Demonstrate best-practice methods regarding physical intervention, inclusive of female persons and minors” making the largely sexist assumption that it will only be men applying these techniques and that there is a legal difference between men and women using these techniques based solely on gender. Once again the use of the word methods in there and not techniques. 
I come back to my original phrase. Not fit for purpose. 

Method v Technique

Why to I keep talking about method v technique? Well if I ask you to demonstrate a technique for removing a person to me you have to physically carry out that technique on another person with an effective outcome. If I ask you to demonstrate the method you would use then you could stand there and walk me thorough the approach, methodology and step by step process you would use without physically performing any technique. There is nothing wrong with this ( in fact it is to be encouraged) but the method has to include the techniques and nowhere is this mentioned.        

The glaring errors

Lets talk about a few glaring errors in the proposals:

There is not requirement for security guards to have this training. So people entering a sector where they work as security in hospitals, care settings, addiction centres, transport systems or retail security aren’t required to have this training despite any decent risk assessment telling you that they are just as likely to have a  requirement for it.

Who is going to teach these skills? Right now the proposal is any one of the TP1 providers trainers can do so. Many of whom are grossly untrained and ill equipped to do so. There is no requirement for them to show and level of proficiency in teaching it or to know any of the techniques required. To my knowledge there perhaps 8 to 10 people in the country currently teaching who possess the required skills, knowledge and experience  to teach these skills. Under the current proposals anybody with a Train the Trainer cert and having completed the security courses can teach them. We are going to have English teachers, former everything, and the usual old boys club making it up as they go along. 

Who will stand behind these ‘methods’? Not one of these proposals state what any of these methods will be and who will stand behind them? Who will risk assess them, who will monitor them and who will stand up in court when the time comes to defend them? The awarding body who certified them? The regulator who approves them? The training company or the trainer? 

What’s needed

I believe that there is a very simple solution. The creation of a stand alone conflict management and physical intervention award for security staff. Accredited either by QQI or anther awarding body. So we create a level 4 award for students similar to the security programmes and a supporting level 6 award for trainers to complete. There are then two options to roll out the level 4 award. 

  1. Make the award a mandatory part of licencing along with the security award. This obviously raises the costs and time spent qualifying for the security industry but I’m not going to say again why I think that is  a good thing. 
  2. Separate the award from entry level training. Make it a mandatory award for the renewal of a first licence. The programme could be completed any time within the first 3 year licence however until it is complete the person cant work alone, on sites risk assessed as high conflict risks,  or without supervision. This forms part of a separate vision for improving the industry that I am working on and will write about shortly. 

A full level 4 programme with 70 hours of underpinning knowledge plus a 4 day programme of training to include conflict management, reasonable force law, ethics, human rights , and physical techniques including final day assessments would properly equip those in the industry to manage conflict incidents far more than a 1 hour or 4 hour part of an entry level programme. As I said before these entry level programmes were never meant to make somebody good at security but they should at least give then the building blocks to begin gaining experience. 


Like anything in this industry this article is aspirational . I know, as do many of the experienced practitioners out there, that more is needed than what is currently proposed but as usual politics and the lobby groups from the old boys clubs will result in a watered down approach to this. We can but hope. If the regulator is in any way serious about improving this industry (and public safety) they would consult the pople who this actually affects ( the employees) and industry experts both here and abroad and not the same round table who brought us the original security courses. Physical intervention is a specialist skill and it requires specialist training from specialist trainers. If that doesnt happen then we are wasting everybodies time and energy.

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